Like many military veterans, veterans, Edward Quinn ’50 has saved old photos from the days when he was deployed overseas. But his collection also contains original watercolors, wartime memorabilia, and images that are unlikely to be found in many scrapbooks, except for those compiled by a circle of soldiers that grows smaller as time marches on.
Quinn, 88, served three years during World War II, working much of that time in an Air Force photo lab on the Pacific island of Tinian, whose location — about 1,500 miles from Japan — made it a critical U.S. outpost during the war. The Worcester native loaded film into cameras mounted on racks inside B-29s that took off from Tinian on U.S. bombing missions over Japan in 1945 and 1946. Once the bomber doors opened, the cameras automatically started snapping. The black-and-white photos from those missions that he and his fellow members of the 313th Bomber Wing developed were used to document the damage inflicted on Japanese cities, and served as aerial reconnaissance to collect intelligence in the Pacific theater.
Quinn stopped by the Clark magazine office recently to show off his thick album, which teems with one-of-a-kind aerial photos, but which also includes pictures that he took on Iwo Jima following the siege (he could still hear U.S. soldiers trading gunfire with Japanese troops inside the island’s caves) and snapshots of life on Tinian.
Drafted in 1943 when he was an 18-year-old student at the Massachusetts School of Art in Boston, Quinn went through basic training in Miami before studying camera installation, technique, and repair in Denver.
Only twice during his time on Tinian was Quinn ordered not to report to the lab: Aug. 6, 1945, when the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and again on Aug. 9, when a second bomb fell on Nagasaki. Both missions, launched from Tinian, were so top-secret that a separate crew was used to rig and load the cameras onto the planes.
After the war, Quinn earned his bachelor’s degree in business and marketing at Clark, an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan, and went on to run his own Boston advertising agency for many years. A widower who has two children and four grandchildren, Quinn now lives in retirement on Cape Cod.
“I attended Clark with a lot of returning G.I.s,” he recalls, adding that he especially enjoyed attending sports events. “We had a real competition going with WPI.”
Quinn has donated his scrapbook to the Dennis Memorial Library in Dennis, Mass.
Ed Quinn passed away on March 25, 2019, at age 94.